Looking Back . . . London 2012
Reputations aren’t built overnight and USA Shooting’s significance as an Olympic sporting power has as much to do with its extensive history as does its recent accomplishments.
Four U.S. shooting athletes reached the podium at the 2012 Olympic Games including Kim Rhode (women’s skeet/El Monte, Calif.), Vincent Hancock (men’s skeet/Eatonton, Ga.), Jamie Gray (women’s 3P rifle/Lebanon, Pa.) and Matt Emmons (men’s 3P rifle/Browns Mills, N.J.). With three gold medals, the U.S. exceeded all other shooting teams since 1924, with the exception of one, the 1984 squad that won three as well but also didn’t have to compete against the tough USSR and East German shooters given their boycott of the Games.
The four-medal performance is a testament to the fortitude of our athletes and coaches, a belief in a proven system of success and the strength inherent when individuality gives way to alliance.
As shooting sports fans, we’ll remember London 2012 for Kim Rhode’s rise to Olympic fame despite an environment littered with deeper attraction to swimmers, runners and gymnasts. We’ll remember Vincent Hancock’s stoic ascension to skeet greatness; the Jamie Gray smile as almost finally became foremost; and the pit in our stomachs that followed Matt Emmons’ final shot of 7.6 and the jubilation that followed when “oh no” finally became “oh yes.”
Scene for ‘16
The gleam of four medals and 22 proud Olympic and Paralympic representatives of the shooting sports thankfully still lingers throughout the USA Shooting community as we look ahead to 2016.
Robust changes in the rules governing the sport have brought a level of anxiety and uncertainty as the next Olympic qualification gets set to begin at the 2014 World Championships in September. After 26 years of essentially the same rules and finals format, The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) hopes that the changes will make the sport more dynamic, attract more fans and provide a greater level of excitement for all involved.
Adaptation of those changes is to taking place and have ultimately affected all aspects of the sport including athletes, coaches and officials. The next two years ahead will be one of extreme adjustment as we sift through the changes and apply them to our events, competitions, selection procedures and gear them toward our ultimate goal of preparing American athletes to win Olympic medals.
With too many variables to predict where we might be two years from now, we view 2014 as the beginning chapter of our Rio In Sight plan.
Mix For 6: Domination and the pursuit of perfection hasn’t become a once-in-a-while thing but rather a full-time occupation for the five-time Olympian Rhode who now owns a U.S. Olympic record of five medals in five consecutive Olympic Games. With that medal, she became the first U.S. athlete to win an individual medal in five consecutive Olympic Games, moving ahead of such big names as Carl Lewis and Al Oerter. Rhode’s third Olympic gold medal is the most by a female shooter – she also has a silver and a bronze to complete the set. By competing in the Women’s Trap event in London where she finished ninth, Rhode also became the first shooter to compete in all three shotgun events (trap, double trap, skeet).
She’s not finished yet, however. Despite having a baby boy in May 2013, she’s returned to form in 2014 winning three World Cup medals in as many chances including two World Cup victories.
“There is nothing like the pride of representing your country in the Olympics,” Kim Rhode, 5-time Olympic Medalist.
Hancock Express: At the medalist press conference in London following his second consecutive gold-medal run in Men’s Skeet, Vincent Hancock was already eyeing Rio: “Knowing that I want to go back and build my legacy is what I am going for now,” he said at the time. “It’s not just the number of medals; it’s what else can I do, how big can I grow this sport and how many people can I introduce to it.” With his drive and competitive desire restored, the world’s best skeet shooters might be lining up behind him for a long time to come.
Matt Emmons: Pundits can write Emmons’ Olympic history any number of ways. Some may choose to focus on the gaffes that cost him two Olympic medals and very nearly a third. But the body of work suggests simply that Emmons is one of the best marksmen in history. His three Olympic medals, two individual World Championship medals, and 47 shooting medals overall are a testament to that fact. Becoming just the fourth shooter ever to win individual rifle shooting medals at three or more Games, should garner him the respect he’s earned.
While he grew up and achieved his greatest success as a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, he’s now living overseas in the Czech Republic with his wife, Katy, and their two children. It was a move the two felt they needed to make personally and one that has not stopped Emmons from being among the top rifle shooters in the World as proven by his three World Cup finals appearances to date in 2014.
“Watching people do something special, something that has never been done before, something that people didn’t think was possible – that reminds me of why I play the game, too. The flood of emotions you experience when a plan comes to fruition at the Olympics or a major competition is intoxicating,” Matt Emmons, while watching the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi earlier this year.
Triple Double: The elite Army Marksmanship combination of Glenn Eller (Houston, Texas), Jeff Holguin (Yorba Linda, California) and Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania) rarely visits any range in the world without prospecting some hardware with the trio earning five of the 12 World Cup medals handed out this season. In 32 events since 2008 including Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup Finals and World Cups, an American has finished lower than sixth only six times. In the nine events since the disappointment in London where no American finished in the top-eight, only once [World Cup Cyprus] has an American finished lower than fifth. In that stretch, the U.S. team has earned eight medals. Since 2008, the U.S. Men’s Double Trap Team has won 21 medals in 32 events.
Only 390 shooters from around the world can earn a spot to compete in the 15 Olympic events. This ‘spot’ is called a quota place. Athletes begin competing to earn those quotas starting with the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Shooting Championships this September and continues during World Cup events and continental championships in 2015. During this time, quota places are generally awarded to top finishers at these events. When an athlete wins a quota, it guarantees the nation a place at the Olympic Games in that particular event, not the athlete. The biggest change from Olympic qualification since 2012 is that in the women’s shotgun events of trap and skeet, countries can now qualify up to two individuals in each event whereas previously only one quota could be earned per country. Now, countries can earn up to two Olympic quotas in each of the 15 Olympic events.
Individual athlete selection for USA Shooting will be determined through at two-part selection process that will include either earning your nomination through a points system based upon international performance or earning your team berth through U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Athletes can earn points by competing at winning levels at the 2014 World Championships and Championship of the Americas or 2015 ISSF World Cups, World Clay Target Championships and Pan American Games. Point system qualifiers will be determined by November 2015.
U.S. Olympic Team Trials will select those individuals not earning an Olympic nomination through the points system and will be conducted in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016. USA Shooting expects to have all team selections complete by the Rio 2016 World Cup Test Event for Shooting which is in April of that year.
Athletes also must attain a Minimum Qualifying Score (MQS) at an ISSF competition over the next two years in order to be eligible for Olympic competition as well.
Logo courtesy USA Shooting